How PM Roble can instill confidence in Somalia's troubled politics
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Starting today [Thursday], Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble will have a major task of bringing opposing groups in Somalia's internal politics, when the country returns to the negotiation table, days after the collapse of crucial talks on upcoming elections.
Surrounded with suspicions, Farmajo walked out of the talks, accusing Jubaland and Puntland of being saboteurs, adding that "I have tried my best to hold elections but internal detractors have overwhelmed me". This was followed by an unpopular term extension which he's since rescinded.
But with growing pressure from the international community, Farmajo has since handed over immeasurable powers to Roble, who is expected to hold talks from today amid the deployment of John Mahama by the African Union as a special mediator. Mahama is yet to arrive.
In a detailed piece, Heritage Institute of Policy Studies [HIPS], a Somalia-based Think Tank, now says Roble could use the occasion to instill discipline in Somalia's murky politics which are majorly clan-based. For him to make this happen, it notes, Roble must be "diligent and uncompromising".
One of the major tasks will be reconciling a divided Somali National Army [SNA], which has since taken sides. A few weeks ago, pro-opposition forces almost captured Mogadishu, leading to Farmajo's unexpected U-turn, that saw him embrace dialogue.
The PM must reconcile the splits within the upper echelon of the security forces, particularly the Somali National Army [SNA], the Think Tank says, adding that: "Prominent commanders have aligned themselves with the opposition on the principle of 'defending the constitution and the democratic system'.”
Although the troops have returned to their bases following Roble's urgent intervention, he will now have to among other things, reassign some of the commanders who were responsible for the security forces’ politicization. This is not an easy task, given the highly flammable political situation in the country, HIPS adds.
Secondly, PM Roble must avoid past mistakes regarding the Federal Electoral Implementation Team [FEIT], the controversial electoral management body that he appointed in October 2020, ostensibly at the behest of President Farmaajo.
Several members of the FEIT were senior officials in the offices of the president and prime minister, and their inclusion profoundly undercut the FEIT’s credibility. The PM has a fresh opportunity to form a new FEIT and ensure that its members can gain the trust of all Somali stakeholders.
"This could send a powerful signal that the PM is genuinely interested in an inclusive electoral process that leads to free and fair elections. The FMS would also be compelled to appoint a similarly respectable committee if the PM sets a great example," it notes.
Thirdly, it says, PM Roble has to quickly solve the Somaliland electoral conundrum. Luckily, this is relatively easy to achieve absent deliberate political machinations. The key stakeholders on this issue are the deputy PM, Mahdi Gulaid, and the speaker of the Senate, Abdi Hashi.
Under his mediation, the PM can pressure them to agree on a formula to jointly appoint the committees responsible for managing the Somaliland elections. There is no doubt that the leaders involved have the will and capacity to work out a fair deal, HIPS observes.
Another important aspect, HIPS says, the PM can play a mediatory role in the Gedo crisis, by far the most complex issue on the table. Unlike the president, who has a vested interest in Gedo and is perceived to have played a leading role in deepening the crisis, the PM can be viewed as a neutral figure.
The presence of federal troops in Gedo has often raised differences between Mogadishu and Kismayo, leading to heated contests between President Farmajo and Jubaland leader Ahmed Islam Mohamed Madobe. This made it difficult to implement September 17 pre-election deal.
Also, the electoral timetable should be given special consideration. The legal mandate of the elected officials expired three months ago, and protracted negotiations could lead to a ‘stealth extension.’ During the first day of negotiations on 20 May, the PM should set a target date for both the parliamentary and the presidential elections to take place within 90-120 days.
Finally, the role of the international community remains profoundly important. Their sustained pressure on Somali leaders has helped to unlock this political impasse. The African Union’s mediation, which came at the behest of president Farmaajo, should be allowed to proceed, it says.
"On behalf of the rest of the international community, the AU envoy could also act as a guarantor should the parties request that in the course of the negotiations. Past electoral negotiations required mediation by the international community."